Yee-hah, giddyup and put on the grits--the rodeo's coming to town, 52 times a year courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and its Web site (www.star-telegram.com). That's where Brett Hoffman's 12-year-old weekly column, "Rodeo Report," can be viewed from your New York high-rise, if you like. The boots are optional.
Hoffman, a soft-spoken cowboy whose glasses and bright smile don't quite seem to fit the image, is a full-time rodeo writer for the Star-Telegram. One of a rare breed, he's been training for the position since he was 11 and jumped into the frontier fantasy of life under a 10-gallon hat by riding broncs and bulls near his hometown of Paducah, Texas. Age and sanity took Hoffman, 39, out of the arena and onto the sidelines as rodeo journalist, where the action is no less real, just a little less dangerous.
If you didn't know there was a need for such a reporter, then you're not from Texas--"cow-town of the world," Hoffman says, and home to many of the reigning rodeo world champions. Hoffman is one of two reporters in the United States who cover just rodeo for metropolitan papers. Ed Knocke of the Dallas Morning News makes up the second half of the tandem.
"It's not so unusual in Fort Worth," Hoffman says, and it might not be so unusual anywhere else: 5,000 rodeos travel across the world and throughout the country each year, according to Steve Hatchell, commissioner of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. What is unusual is someone covering them full time. What you normally get, says Hoffman, is "people who cover rodeo as a part of their job description," rather than all of their job description.
Mitchell Krugel, deputy sports editor at the Star-Telegram, says Hoffman's rodeo fervor mirrors local interest in the sport. He calls the columnist "religious in his approach to rodeo," an apt description as the writer also holds a master's degree in divinity.
Rodeo's not just a hobby or weekend thrill--it's big business. The National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, the Super Bowl of rodeos, awards prize money of more than $4 million, along with bejeweled belt buckles and hand-styled guns from Colt.
It's still that draw of the dream that keeps the rodeo campfires burning, though. "Rodeo is a sport that's very unique to America," Hoffman says. "Everybody has a little of wanting to play cowboy inside of him."